Thursday, November 01, 2007

Temple Mount Controversy in Jerusalem

Archaeologists overseeing contested Islamic infrastructure work on Jerusalem's Temple Mount have stumbled upon a sealed archeological level dating back to the First Temple period, the Israel Antiquities Authority has announced. The find marks the first time that archaeological remains dating back to the First Temple period have been found on the contested holy site, the state-run archeological body said.

No archaeological excavations have ever been carried out on the Temple Mount, which is Judaism's holiest and Islam's third-holiest site, due to opposition from religious leaders.

The sealed archaeological level, dated from the eighth to the sixth centuries BCE, was exposed at the end of August in the area close to the southeastern corner of the raised platform surrounding the Dome of the Rock, and includes fragments of ceramic tableware and animal bone. "The layer is a closed, sealed archeological layer that has been untouched since as early as the eighth century BCE," said Yuval Baruch, the Jerusalem District archeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The archaeologists said the maintenance work, which was carried out with a tractor, had left a 100-meter-long and roughly 1-1.5-meter-deep trench and had badly damaged antiquities at the site.

According to decades-old regulations in place at the Temple Mount, Israel maintains overall security control at the site, while the Wakf, or Islamic Trust, is charged with day-to-day administration of the ancient compound, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over control of Jerusalem.

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